Well, I finally bought a Van so how do I.......

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Well-known member
May 31, 2015
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Wayne National Forest, Ohio
How many times have I heard this question asked of me ?   Plenty believe me. 

So many friends and guys I've met on the road have asked me how I went about
making my Van into a Camper for overnight trips, week end getaways, or even taking
an extended vacation in.  Some say that they aren't that handy or don't own power tools
or basically want what I have but don't know how go go about making it happen.

So I finally broke down and set up a website that I'm using here at "Cheap RV Living" as my
home page and signature line.

But websites have their limits with just photos, sketches, and text. 

Here is the website by the way:


My approach is in taking a bare bones Van and first making paper templates of the floor starting just behind the front seats to the rear doors.  This will be used to cut ply wood flooring or thick masonite to attach to the
floor with stainless steel screws.  Carpeting will be cut using that same template even if it is several pieces
attached at the back side with wide Duct Tape.

The floor plan I use places the bed across the back end supported by the wheel wells.  In my Van I used 2X4's
attached to the ribs of the sides and supported a full size Hollywood metal Bed Frame on that.  A Plywood
panel was cut to lay into this and covered with carpet so I could install a Vynil Air Bed On top of it.  A 2X4 box
was built to support it in the middle such that the box could have masonite fixed to the sides for a storage
box.  On either side plastic bins were placed for storage of clothing, bedding, and towels etc.

The next item is a combination of items to satisfy the requirements of a Motor Home or Van Conversion here in Ohio.  I call it a Cabinet.  The top holds a two basin sink, small and shallow, and a two burner propane gas
cook stove. Water is delivered by a small inexpensive plastic pump that runs off 12 V supplied by a spare car battery and the water is contained in a plastic 5 gallon Jerry tank. A toggle switch powers up the faucet so that there is running water.  The sinks are plumbed to empty to the ground outside or if there is disposal facilities, then into it. The Cabinet doors allow access to the two shelves inside.  On the left door is mounted a fold out table where folding camp chairs would provide seating.  My refrigeration is provided by a 36 qt ice chest.
I own a Thetford chemical toilet that I can talke along too. (if necessary)

I've also designed a roll out awning (see website) using a set of ladder racks and a long piece of electricians conduit. On this is an 8X10 blue plastic tarp. In the end of the conduit I mounted a socket with 3/8 inch drive
and placed an eye bold through it to secure it to the conduit.  By using a crank handle, extension, and flexible
drive I can connect to the conduit and roll in the awning quite easily.

At a glance,  it looks like a work vehicle.  So it is quite stealthy.  I have a 4 inch piece of plastic pipe that I painted silver and I slide this over the awning when rolled up so it looks like some kind of tube for carrying
whatever anyone could imagine.  It doesn't look like the typical awning you would see on an RV.

Believe me this project was a lot easier to create than creating the website and creating this thread. LOL

Each State sort of has it's own requirements for Licensing/Titling a Van as a RV or Motor Home etc. Often the
cost of license and insurance is lower than it would be on a commercial vehicle.  In Ohio a 1 ton Van must be licensed as a Commercial Vehicle. 

Motor Home Ohio

Ohio title requirements.

Currently in Ohio, you no longer have to take the vehicle to the State Patrol

barracks for an inspection prior to a title change to a motor home. Now there is a

form you have to get from the county courthouse title bureau called a "affidavit

conversion to motor home" and fill it out and have it notarized and returned to the

courthouse. The form they gave me is "BMV 3804 5/86". I would be glad to post a copy

if somebody can tell me how to get a pic to upload into the thread. At that point

they will issue you a new title as a motorhome. There is a $15 fee for printing the

new title and you are in business. Go to the deputy registrar with your new title

and you can purchase motor home license plates.

Our Ohio form asks for 4 specific things to qualify as a motor home:
1. Facilities for cold storage of food: (specify)
ice box or refrigerator
2. Facilities for cooking of food: (specify)
range top or oven
3. Facilities for consumption of food:
table with seating
4. Facilities for sleeping

They are very clear "that the equipment necessary to qualify such motor vehicle to

be titled and registered as a motor home has been permanently installed and attached

to the motor vehicle". That means a cooler, bbq grill, and sleeping bag do not

qualify. It is an old form (1986) and has not been updated, so I am not sure if you

can skate with a microwave "oven" or if you need a real built in deal. I am planning

on a gas range top just to be sure.

If one reads my Profile they can see how I evolved this design so I would have an RV and could
empty the Van to use on the Job.  Yes I know it says "Permanitely Installed" but I've never been pulled
over for an on the spot inspection.  

This is all about building a low end starter RV Van for young people or those who have to bail out and find themselves immediate housing and mobility perhaps due to a divorce or other misfortune.

So if anyone wants to discuss or ask questions or make suggestions this is the thread created for it.

I'd welcome any thoughts or contributions.  It all goes to helping others get stated.
There is a member of this forum that had an accident, and everything that was not secured ended up on top of her.  This happened when I just started here.

Food for thought when setting up your van.  In a multi car accident, or rollover situation, what will come at my head? It is my understanding they had trouble removing her from the wreckage because of loose objects covering her.
eDJ_ said:
Each State sort of has it's own requirements for Licensing/Titling a Van as a RV or Motor Home etc. Often the
cost of license and insurance is lower than it would be on a commercial vehicle.  In Ohio a 1 ton Van must be licensed as a Commercial Vehicle. 

So if anyone wants to discuss or ask questions or make suggestions this is the thread created for it.

I'd welcome any thoughts or contributions.  It all goes to helping others get stated.

The Ohio RC regarding 1 ton licensing. You are required to check a box and sign that you are not using the vehicle for commercial purpose. Then it can be registered as a non-commercial motor vehicle even though it is a 1 ton.
REF: Ohio Department of Public Safety, Affidavit for Registration, BMV 5712 1/14 (760-1512)
I have read your web pages. Nice job, i like it. Very talented use of design art work for your illustrations. There is a problem with over lapped text on page 4 i think. I hope you don't mind if i haven't built mine like yours. ;) I hate to deal with melting ice.
To all who have responded so far,  thanks for sharing your experience, ideas, and insights.  The website of mine is strictly in the vein of a Hobby site and there is no commercial interest in it.   I started it some time back when  a young High School guy on another forum was admiring some photos of my old Van and the stories I told about my experience with it.  He asked the same question...."How do you set one of these up" ?  I had been creating websites for awhile and decided to finally address this question with a site that would explain things. Then I printed business cards to carry with me with the web address to offer when people wanted to know about setting up a "Low End" beginners Van to go camping or touring on a week end.

Years ago as a kid, I saw Vans everywhere with the super graphic stripes and air brushed murals and Magazines about Van's abounded.  I had found some of those magazines in yard sales and flea markets.  In those years there were ad's where you could buy plans with full size prints to fix up a really nice Van of any make, model, or size.  There were even places that did Conversions and Modifications for people who brought a bare bones Van to their shop.   Some really beautiful stuff back then.

For those who want to contribute their ideas that would benefit this site effort I'll try to add it to the text
descriptions in the site.  Any links that would benefit those viewing the site would be helpful and appreciated.  You can even PM me info if you prefer. 


That's a very good point about objects becoming projectiles.   When I was 18 and driving a night shift delivery truck I was taught to use the load straps which fastened to the wooden stringers on the sides of the truck to secure each row of the load.   Otherwise a well stacked and arranged manifest of goods could topple
and just become a pile of disorder.   Every truckers worst nightmare.

In my first Van I had the cabinet secured to the ribs of the side.  Nothing was left in the open especially cast iron cookware.  Today all of my stuff is secured and when driving the Van I'm more aware of other drivers
than when driving the car.   I try to remember when I'm driving the Van that It's about relaxation and recreation.   There are no NASCAR numbers on my Van.  LOL


I appreciate the heads up on that check box.   At my local License place (of the Ohio BMV) there are several little old Granny Ladies working.  Dear sweet people and all but I'm going to check how I'm registered next time I'm by there.  Back when I purchased my Van I was told that it was a 1 ton and all one ton Vans we

considered commercial vehicles.  But that's a great point and I'll look into this.


I'll sure look into that overlapping text issue.  I try to check my sites in IE and Firefox both at home and at a Public Library to see how they display.  Again, thanks for the heads up.  IE & Fox are the most commonly used browsers.

As for melting Ice....Some Boaters I've known taught me to keep just the right amount of
water in the bottom of an ice chest for the best efficiency and life of the ice supply.  I agree It's a hassle to drain water frequently on hot days an constantly add more ice.  But I've found the smaller ice chest work better for one or two people than the big ice chest.  One Boater told me he sold his 105 qt cooler and purchased three 36 qt units cause they were easier to move around when full of ice and food items.

My original Van had masonite flooring and indoor outdoor carpet in it with the black rubber foam insulation under it and water, if any, wicked away nicely.  The pile of the carpet was short and tight and made of nylon
so water was never a problem.

On the latest Van I've used  plywood flooring that was painted with epoxy paint on the upward facing side.
The holes for the screws were drilled first and then the screws installed. I use bees wax on the screws and
didn't experience any problems.  The holes I drilled weren't much smaller than the screws so they probably didn't get that much of a bite in the metal floor but they will keep the three sheets it took located well enough to not be a problem.


Good point on the little inverter.  Back then, and  still to this day,  I carry a heavy outdoor extension cord for shore power.  When I traveled I often found facilities where I could hook up to their outdoor electric long enough to do whatever I needed requiring some power.  Later on I got the small inverter but I was using a 2 burner Sterno Stove to cook with in the Van when I first started. If camping in a park I would have electric for the appliances.  Today with Harbor Freight and so much affordable stuff coming from Asia I can have an inverter with three times the capacity as my original 400w, for nearly what I paid for the 400w.  My latest
Harbor ad is showing  a 1000w/2000w peak for $84.99 dollars. (with 20% off coupon closer to $70+ tax)

But this web site project for the noob's is a work in progress and I'm not emotionally involved in any notions of it being pure and perfect. LOL  It's just to serve as an entry point for those who would like to get into an affordable recreational vehicle that they can make memories for a life time with.

So please continue to continue to contribute questions, ideas, stories of your experiences, links to places or sites that would  benefit any new visitor to this project site.   RV supply sites with affordable prices or catalogs that offer a large selection of 12 volt appliances would be helpful.

Brightest Blessings everyone !  :D

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